Groupe Rtd

Djibouti is the smallest country on mainland Africa and lies between Eritrea, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Gulf of Aden. It has been an independent country since 1977. Culture was subordinated to bureaucratic and political structures. Ostinato, a reissue label, has been digging through the archives of Radiodiffusion Television Djibouti and has recorded Groupe RTD, its house band. The label credits everyone involved, including the former director-general of Radiodiffusion Television Djibouti’s head of customs, who expedited the temporary importation of a state of the-art recording desk. However, the time it took to make the album was extremely stressful: only three days were allowed in the studio with no overruns. They embraced the studio’s ban on smoking and chewing tobacco and listened to the instructions. The musicians then reconstructed their night-time sets as a band that combined the many musical strands of Djibouti, including African and Arabic. The groupe RTD is a mixture of Djibouti veteran musicians, including Mohamed Abdi Alto, who was so well-known for his sax, that it now forms part his name, and younger musicians, one of whom, Asma Olmar, joined the band after she won a talent contest. The album’s hurried pace is evident in its energy and interludes. Abdi sings with the synthesiser and Guessod Abdo Hamargod sings the refrain. Salem Mohamed Ahmed’s dumbek drumming is interrupted by Guessod Abdo Hamargod singing the refrain. “Kuusha Caarey” begins with a conversation that turns into qat-fuelled laughter. Hamargod then announces “let’s go”. The synth stabs, staccato drumming and symphonic drumm take over. The songs vary: “Buurahau Dheer” opens with vibrato-heavy, Bollywood-style microtonal inflections by Asma Omar. Abdi then vamps around her and breaks into a gritty rock guitarist riff from Abdirazak Hagi Sufi. Even though Djibouti lies a continent’s breadth away from Mali there is still a hint the unwavering good humor of Amadou.

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